Here’s some new research that could help explain the misery of your teenage years: It seems that social exclusion is more acceptable when the excluded look like cold and incompetent jerks.
For a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland showed photos of men’s faces to 480 people. Their facial expressions had been altered to appear warm or cold and competent or incompetent. After looking at each photo for two seconds, the participants had to indicate how acceptable they thought it was for a group to exclude this person.
They found that people thought it most acceptable to ostracize those who looked cold and incompetent and least acceptable to shut out those who appeared warm and incompetent. (Resting bitchface was not a condition in the study, but that’s probably more like cold and competent.)
The researchers pointed out that there’s no proof facial expressions are connected to personality traits, and that their results “suggest that the first impression a person makes can also influence moral judgments that would actually call for objectivity.” Try telling that to a bunch of tenth graders.